TechSpot

Choosing External Hard Drive

By ChrisLam
Aug 26, 2007
  1. Hello

    I want to buy an external hard drive, though I am not sure which brand offers the best features. I need at least 200 gigabytes and I don't need more than 320 gigabytes (although it won't hurt to get more for the same price). I know that some brands break down easier than others and some drives have faster reading/writing times, etc. My primary use for the external drive is for backup and storing some media files at home. I don't need to take it out of the house so if it is powered by an AC plug I am fine with that. It will be used between two Windows XP desktops and a Windwos Vista laptop. I already have a router for sharing files through a network, but I have seen some external drives with a networking capability and am wondering how to use it, though it is not absolutely necessary for this feature. I want is to have USB 2.0 interface, eSATA. I don't use Firewire at all, but it would be nice since Firewire (800) is faster than USB 2.0.

    I have been thinking about the Seagate FreeAgent Pro external drives. Is this a good choice? By the way, I want a reasonable price. I live in Ontario, and anything from Best Buy or Future Shop or possibly even Canada Computers is fine. I don't buy from eBay or Amazon though and I don't think Newegg ships to Canada yet or anymore.

    Thanks

    Also, is there any FREE software that gives your flash drive password protection? (Besides buying a drive with U3?)
     
  2. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +9

    Any external drive that was adequately packed when shipped from the manufacturer is better. Most external drives that fail have been knocked around. A local store warranty on top of the hard drive warranty saves you a lot of grief. Seagate and Western Digital are made in the US, and may possible have plants in Canada. I would trust a hard drive manufactured in Canada over any other brand. Seagate is the only drive with a five year warranty, but not all stores sell them with the longer warranty. Some only have a 30 day 90 day, or one year warranty. Western Digital in US stores such as WalMart, Best Buy, and Circuit City only have a one year warranty. They may differ in Canada.
    Your choices are Tri-Gem (ugh), Maxtor (Ugh, but now owned by Seagate) Western Digital, Hitachi, Toshiba, Samsung, Fujica or Fujitsu depending on where you are, Samsung.
    We rate Tri-Gem as bad. Fujica, Hitachi, and Maxtor a step below, and Western Digital, Samsung, and Seagate at the top.
    There are many many other external hard drives by LaCie, and other brands. You do not know which hard drive is inside, but they do not make their own drives, just the enclosure. We like LiteOn best.
    The failure rate on all external drives is much higher than internal drives.
     
  3. PRBROWN

    PRBROWN TS Rookie

    ChrisLam,

    I just bought an external USB 2.0 drive for a client. It is an I/OMagic 320GB. There was no setup software or instructions (even though it appeared factory sealed). Of course, none was needed. Plug in the power and cable and start loading it up. This particular client has over 12500 iTunes, numerous photographs and some .doc files. It absorbed all that with plenty of room to spare. Couldn't be easier...
     
  4. ChrisLam

    ChrisLam TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 82

    Does the backup software matter? If the HDD comes with auto-backup software, will it backup a virus? If my comp has a problem, can I use the software to recover without booting into windows? Which software does that?
     
  5. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +9

    Yes it will backup a virus. It will backup anything in the path. You must assure removal of anything you do not wish to be backed up.
    Not you cannot use software to recover without booting into windows somewhere unless you are good a special tricks.
    There are machines that will duplicate hard drives exactly... many repair shops have them, as to radio stations.
    But it may be a word choice.
    To recover, you need Windows or DOS, depending on what you wish to recover. But you can overlay without windows... but then the drive does not end up ready to use.
     
  6. ChrisLam

    ChrisLam TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 82

    So do you recommend I get an external hard drive with back up software and only backup after I make sure my computer is clean or adware, spware, viruses, etc.? And in the case of a Windows problem I can't boot into XP but can boot to BIOS, can I keep a spare OS in the hard drive (like DSL or something) and boot from there to recover XP? Also, does some software like Norton Ghost make a ghost image that is bootable? If so, you can export the image to the external hard drive and in an event of a crash, I can plug in the external hard drive and boot from it? I have Norton Ghost on my computer, though when I start it up I get an error message saying:

    The service can not be started, because it is disabled or because it has no devices associated with it.

    Please reply!
    Thanks
     
  7. PRBROWN

    PRBROWN TS Rookie

    ChrisLam,
    Be sure to set a new Restore point AFTER you are sure the computer is clean; do not restore to point prior to that.
     
  8. AlbertLionheart

    AlbertLionheart TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,026

    I have used and sold Freecom kit without problem - not always the cheapest but rarely causes problems. NAS drives are the best option if you have more than one networked machine and they often bundle some decent backup software as part of the deal.
     
  9. ChrisLam

    ChrisLam TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 82

    I bought a Seagate FreeAgent Desktop external hard drive yesterday. It does not come with any backup software at all. Is there a free backup software that will backup for me? (Preferably one which backs up windows files too and hopefully compatible with Vista)
     
  10. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +9

    Try some of those at www.majorgeeks.com. They often have a free trial period.
    Acronis True Image is one of my favorites.
    Also take a look at Epogramy.net, Cobian Backup, Backup Central, GenieSoft, Good Sync, DriveHQ, NCHSoftware.com

    and the multi files at http://free-backup.info

    Those will give you a good start.

    What ever you choose, be sure you test it thoroughly before you have to use it.
     
  11. ChrisLam

    ChrisLam TS Rookie Topic Starter Posts: 82

    Is there one that backsup your windows files and os? Like Norton Ghost which I have, but is not working at the moment. I am not willing to pay for other ghost image programs or the like:D.
     
  12. raybay

    raybay TS Evangelist Posts: 7,241   +9

    Norton Ghost is one of them... sold under the Symantec name nowadays.
     
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